Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Bugged: How Insects Changed History by Sarah Albee

This hybrid of science and history is fascinating and gruesome. While the sweetness and light afforded by honeybees and the fabric from silk moths are covered, Albee spends much more time on the many hideous diseases for which insects are the vector. She describes symptoms in detail. She speculates which diseases caused the deaths of various famous people, destroyed armies, and brought the downfall of empires.

Along the way, the reader will painlessly absorb some of the principles of biology and something of the forces that drive history. The author concludes with some serious questions about the future, from healthy eating to pesticide resistance.

On every page, sidebars break and elaborate on the text, making this a great reading choice for young people with short attention spans. The author is very fond of puns as sidebar titles, many of which may go over the heads of young readers, like “What Color Is Your Parasite?” Illustrations are plentiful in Bugged though all are unfortunately printed in magenta and cyan.

Albee's bibliography in Bugged may lead readers to such books as Jim Murphy's An American Plague: the True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793. Adult readers might find further food for thought in Guns, Germs and Steel: the Fate of Human Societies by Jared Diamond. 

No comments: